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Tangerinegate... by Robert Popper

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Lucy McDermott | 14:20 UK time, Monday, 1 March 2010

Robert Popper writes:

Last Monday I decided to do one of my silly and - admittedly - childish phone calls under the guise of my Timewaster Letters character, Robin Cooper.

So I switched on LBC (a London talk radio station) where the topic was Gordon Brown's alleged bad temper. I called up and got through almost instantly. "What do you want to talk about?" asked the LBC operator. Without time to think I replied, "Gordon Brown visited my place of work and lost his temper right in front of me". Very soon I was on air, explaining how Gordon Brown had toured my workshop - a 'lamination factory' - and thrown a tangerine into one of the machines, breaking it, before calling a member of staff a 'citric idiot'.  It was all I could think of at the time. A load of nonsense. But I was quite proud of the phrase, 'citric idiot'.

Anyway, skip forward to Friday night. It's midnight. I'm lying in bed, when I get a message on twitter that the tangerine story had been mentioned on BBC Two's The Bubble. I clicked on iPlayer and fourteen minutes in, I see the brilliant David Mitchell telling his guests that Gordon Brown had allegedly thrown a tangerine into a lamination machine.  


I immediately stuck my phone call up on my site (I'd animated it with my crap drawings), mentioning how it had been picked up on The Bubble. Very soon someone tweeted saying that they'd read about the tangerine incident in the Financial Times. And there was a link! Within seconds, someone else added that it had been in The Telegraph, with the headline: "Gordon Brown accused of throwing a tangerine". The article went on to say, "One of the factory workers told The Sun Mr Brown became angry and threw a tangerine he was holding into a laminating machine".

Sorry? "One of the factory workers told The Sun?"

Yes. The story was in The Sun too. So apparently a pretend worker at a pretend factory phoned The Sun to tell them about a pretend incident with a pretend tangerine breaking a pretend lamination machine.

People on Twitter started referring to this as 'Tangerinegate', and soon, the name stuck. Then a 'Tangerinegate' wiki page appeared. All this within a matter of hours.   

But my favourite part was when a Hong Kong news agency, which had previously, and bizarrely, animated various incidents of the Brown bullying story, animated my story as well. There it was in black and orange: a sort of man throwing a tangerine into a machine. I laughed so hard, I almost puked my lungs onto my legs. To think that 6000 miles away, a news director in a Hong Kong office had actually instructed one of his animators to show the British Prime Minister throwing a tangerine into a lamination machine. Did the animator have to google 'lamination machines' for reference? Actually, the tangerine and the machine looked pretty good, but the factory resembled a sort of oversized torture chamber.

I should add that of all the press that covered Tangerinegate, only the FT were highly suspicious of it. So hats off to them. But to The Sun and The Telegraph, I just want to let you know that I have another amazing story of the time David Cameron visited the very same factory, and threw a carton of milk into the very same machine, before calling the very same factory worker a "lactic imbecile".

Robin Cooper is very good as wasting people's time. Check out our exclusive videos in which he attempts to claim the money he's apparently won in the 'Spanish Lottery'. Here's the first:

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  • Comment number 1.

    This absolutely made my day - thank you Robin, Gordon and all the eager journalists.

  • Comment number 2.

    Brilliant and scarily effective!! (Reminds me of the alleged George Clooney sighting in Wirral during the Open Championship 2006)

    However, in the interests of political unbiasedness I think other party leaders should be targetted with similar pranks. You could subvert the entire election PR machine like this... it must be tempting huh?


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